Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Reviews: XXY

I have more quick reviews to add from all the back-catalog renting and revival-house haunting I've been doing lately, as well as a whole mess of unfinished business from 2009 to catch up on. (And if the phrase "a whole mess" in relation to "2009" conjures up the immediate association of The Lovely Bones... yes, I finally saw it, and yes, it's as jaw-droppingly, peculiarly awful as everyone short of Kris Tapley has already attested.)

For now, to prove that I'm not dead, I'm just tossing up the one full review I've actually finished in the last week, for Lucía Puenzo's flawed but promising debut drama XXY (2007), about an intersexed pre-teen in Argentina whose parents may or may not be planning a genital-correction surgery. Alex, the central character, may or may not have intuited this looming possibility; Alvaro, the son of the couple who have just been invited so abruptly to the seaside home of Alex's parents, may or may not feel erotic attractions toward Alex, and he may or may not understand those desires, either before, during, or after he acts upon them.

XXY, reviewed here, was one of the movies I recently listed as enticing titles from the just-finished decade that I wished I had caught at the time. Of course I harbor big dreams of searching out all the movies I cataloged in that "Backwards & Forwards" series, and of course this blog is nothing if not a repository of big dreams. I am reminded, all the time, of my first visit to the home of a very famous professor for whom I was a research assistant in college. She had a room in the top floor of her house where she had installed some old choral risers she'd found in a flea market, so she could arrange her little heaps of paper corresponding to all of her unfinished, barely commenced, or never-quite-begun projects and look at them all with pride, whether or not she ever managed to do anything with them. She called this room her Study of Lost Causes.

I have not yet buckled to internal pressure toward renaming this blog exactly that, and hopefully, as the weeks go by, I'll feel even less reason to give into that temptation. Keep hope alive!

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Blogger Andrew K. said...

Everyone short Kristopher Tapley and myself I fear...I like it...I did...I do. Sigh. How many (imaginary) points does that make me lose?

Did you find anything good about it?

3:32 PM, February 15, 2010  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

Hmm...better than Sherlock Holmes, but worse than The Blind Side.

It'd be interesting to know how you finalize your letter grades. Do you have a formal method, or is it more Ebert-esque arbitrary?

6:33 PM, February 15, 2010  
Blogger tim r said...

Am I right in thinking that Beeswax is your first stab at Bujalski? If so, how great that you flipped for it! I had the same experience with Funny Ha Ha, and am now of course dying to know if you'd like that one as much...

8:54 AM, February 16, 2010  
Blogger Guy Lodge said...

What a relief to have you back, and what a relief to have YOUR back on "The Lovely Bones." And interesting that your grade matches Tim's -- we were trying to figure out what saved it from F-ville for him (it's easily there, in my mind), given that not even its hideous design aspects prove redeeming. We finally figured out that it's the sheer gale-force weirdness of Susan Sarandon's comic relief, terrible though she is ... is that it for you, too?

9:57 AM, February 16, 2010  
Blogger JKlorfein said...

Yay! You're back. I was confused at first that XXY was the Mark Ruffalo / Kathleen Robertson rom-com. Looking forward to digs and quips on THE BLIND SIDE sprinkled into other reviews. DIGS AND QUIPS.

10:23 AM, February 16, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm very happy you are back! I can't wait to find out what you thought (or will think) about Last Station and Shutter Island.

Am I insane for wanting to see Lovely Bones? I want to know where that hatred comes from. And, does this movie have the most ironic title ever, or what?

1:02 PM, February 16, 2010  
Blogger Michael Shetina said...

Nick, I noticed you recently saw Kim Stanley in Seance on a Wet Afternoon. It's one of my pet performances and I was wondering if you were planning on writing about it.

8:34 PM, February 19, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Andrew: I thought the scene where Tucci intuits the older daughter's presence in his house, but she can't stop leafing through the (trite, ridiculous) journal at least tipped its hat toward a kind of pop, comic-book style suspense that managed to feel gripping and synthetic at the same time, which seemed to be a sweet-spot that the rest of the film often desired to hit, but almost never did. Indeed, even this sequence cannot even hold onto it, given the bizarrely tricked-out chase and the truncated resolution of this story beat. But there are moments where Jackson's weirdness as a filmmaker feels like an ember you'd like to reawaken; mostly, I just wanted to put him out of his evident creative misery and pull the plug on this bloated, atonal movie.

@Robert: I don't know if Roger Ebert has a patent on intuitive grading, but I don't have a rulebook. Sherlock Holmes is (marginally) better-made than Lovely Bones, but it exhausts itself even more trying not to have a single plausible thing to do with its name-brand or its source text or its own premise, and comes across as an even more desperate and vulgar waste of mountains of money. And it's smug about it to boot. Hence, the F. The Blind Side is gargantually condescending and frequently inept, but it doesn't take itself as seriously as Bones does, and I'll take the sitcommy but plausible bond between Bullock and McGraw over the concepty but utterly insincere Downey-Law relation any day (and yes, I'm surprised by that). In truth, I was probably a bit easy on Blind Side and a bit hard on Sherlock, but this isn't a science.

@Tim: Yes! My first stab at Bujalski. Must find room to say something about it, but it was an elating experience, this movie.

@Guy: See above. Bones has a colossal failure of will and an almost lethal strain of poor judgment: narratively, graphically, rhythmically, psychologically, perspectivally, effects-wise, you name it. But there are flashes where I at least yearned for Jackson to have pulled it off, or his sensibility felt momentarily productive on behalf of the material, even as he quickly stumbled back into his own worst enemy. "F" movies, for me, I just find the whole thing, from conception to execution, so degrading or polluted that I can't feel any pity for the movie's failures and wish it could just be extinguished.

If anything, the bad-grandma, throw-that-vase-on-the-oven sequence almost pushed me to that pitiless "F" place! But at other moments, the movie's colossal wrong-headedness was (I'm ashamed to admit) entertaining as an epochal disaster.

@Jason: I know the movie you're talking about but have never actually watched it... is it worth it?

1:05 AM, February 22, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Δημήτρης: I'm glad to be back! And I've just gratified both of these wishes with another post, though I wish I had something nicer to say.

@Michael: You're not the only person who's asked, so I think I should make this a priority. I need to review one more movie from that '64 lineup, but then I'll put something together.

1:06 AM, February 22, 2010  

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